|Grandma's Dogwood, early in the day, before the gale.|
Wolfman, as a pup, a teenager, tells me he used to stand out in the open yard during storms like this. And I, too, have always been more attracted to than afraid of thunderbolts and lightning. Summers as a teenager and in my early 20s, I'd sit on the covered back porch of my grandparents' house during storms and dangle my long legs, my long feet, over the side of the plastic lawn chair and into the rain. Before that, in New Mexico, I remember my mother ushering us outside to watch storms roll in, lightning bolting down over distant plateaus; I felt close to my mother then.
We had dinner on Salem Street, La Rancherita, last night, and then stopped by the café to visit with Mark and enjoy some espresso (Wolfman's in shot form with sugar, mine as Americano without). The rain had begun while we ate dinner, the noise and light began during our after-dinner cuppa. Mads and I waited on the sidewalk while Wolfman ran barefoot through the rain to pull up the car. As I strapped the baby into his car seat, lightning struck close, and I remembered aloud to Wolfman on the ride home the one time I got truly scared in a storm--when I was pregnant.
I felt physically vulnerable throughout my pregnancy anyways, more so than ever before (in that I'd never felt physically vulnerable before, ever). During my pregnancy, I was working at an office in North Raleigh and commuting home in the evenings on the city bus. My walk to the bus stop was around a mile-and-a-half, but I didn't mind, as I've never minded long walks, particularly as this was my only chance to exercise my swelling body after sitting all day behind a desk. On this particular evening, a co-worker, Dottie, offered to drive me to the bus stop, but I politely declined--out of pride, partly, and also a lack of concern. Midway through that walk, though, I got caught in the middle of an intense storm. My umbrella was useless against the wind. Thunder cracked all around me. Pines swayed and danced violently. The air was oppressive, the sky angry. I'm not a talented enough writer to describe this storm without clichés. I was out in the open, in the midst of a tempest, my belly out-to-here, my dress sopping wet and clinging heavily to my body, and I was afraid. I began talking aloud, to the babe in my belly, as I often did while alone (because I never really was alone in those nine months), but also to something else, something Other.
I talked to Thor, maybe because my husband believes in Thor. (But, if you like, you can replace Thor with the god of your choice as you read this.) I spoke to Thor because He felt real, and He felt close, as real and close as the child I carried. As I related this to Wolfman last night, it wasn't the Marvel Thor I talked to that day--this Thor was much bigger, meaner, uglier. (Wolfman said, "Thor is handsome, maybe not as handsome as Balder, but..." I said, "Not as handsome as Chris Hemsworth," and Wolfman replied, "No, probably not. No offense," and touched his fingers to his mouth, then the roof of the car as we drove through the downpour.) I don't remember the exact words I said to Thor, but the sentiment was something like, "Do all the thundering you need to do, but please remember I'm here, and my baby's here. Watch out for us."
He did. Or, at least I made it to my stop, an uncovered wooden bench outside a bank, facing a wall of trees with which I often practiced my pareidolia. I stood under the awning of the bank, wrung my dress out as much as I could, said a prayer of thanks and held my belly, speaking happy, reassuring words to the both of us, until the bus arrived, and when it did, neither the driver nor passengers seemed surprised or concerned by my near-drowned state. The air conditioning was cold on my skin.
I hadn't thought about that squall in a while, but having just related the story to Wolfman, when we arrived safe home, running through the rain and into the house, I immediately called my sister, to make sure she and Ella were safe and sound at her in-law's. I knew they would be, but I wanted to make sure, and Sierra did not sound surprised that I'd called her. Once we, their people, were home, the dogs slept soundly, and during a brief break in the rain, both cats appeared crying at the back door, their coats wet. We kept the curtains open, to better keep tabs on the storm and better enjoy it.